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“Hunting the invisible particles”

In its "Close-up" series, Deutsche Welle portrayed in a thirty-minute film the work of the "pioneer of microplastics research", Professor Dr. Christian Laforsch, and the team from the Collaborative Research Centre at the University of Bayreuth. As the film shows, some of the basic research on microplastics there involves the use of measuring equipment that was specially developed and built at the university. In the interdisciplinary team, scientists are also working together with the plastics industry on alternatives to conventional plastics that would not end up as microplastics in the environment.

In Bayreuth, research is being conducted into the formation, distribution and effects of microplastics in the environment, and also into new approaches for preventing discharges. At the heart of the research work is the question: What does microplastic do to the environment and to humans? The Deutsche Welle film accompanies Christian Laforsch and his team from the Microplastics Collaborative Research Centre at the University of Bayreuth in their hunt for the tiny plastic particles in the water, air and soil. Their aim is to detect microplastics with measuring devices that have been specially developed and built at the university. The tiny particles are highly elusive, as one young scientist explains in the video: "Microplastics have different sizes, shapes, compositions, chemical and physical properties, and are made up of different types of plastic, which makes studying their quantities and distribution a highly complex matter." As an example of the scientists' pioneering work, the film shows, among other things, how a trawl developed at the University of Bayreuth, known as a manta trawl, and a special pump, also a proprietary development, are used in a river downstream of a wastewater treatment plant to investigate the extent to which wastewater treatment plants can filter the microplastics out of the water. The interdisciplinary team is also working on solutions to prevent microplastics from being produced in the first place, as Laforsch explains in the film portrait. To this end, the work of chemist Professor Seema Agarwal is presented, who is developing, among other things, biodegradable plastics in close cooperation with the chemical industry. Agarwal, who is also well acquainted with the plastic problem from her native India, is convinced that the development of new materials is the place to start in order to prevent the emergence of microplastics. For example, she wants to develop solutions for the "beginning of the plastics chain" together with the internationally active plastics processor Rehau.



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